STORYTELLER by Leslie Marmon Silko


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A vivid montage of tribal tales, family memories, old photographs, poems, and songs--evoking Indian life, from the recent or distant past, in the Laguna pueblo (New Mexico) and elsewhere. Silko is part Mexican, part Anglo, and part Indian, but this last holds the core of the personal and artistic identity that she drew on for her fine first novel Ceremony and draws on now for this memorable collection. If there is a leitmotif in the dozens of bits and pieces, it would have to be the clash of white against Indian. In one story a Navaho woman mourns the loss of her children, one to the Army, two others to a remote BIA school. In another an Eskimo girl tricks a ""Gussuck"" (white) storekeeper, crazed with anger and lust, into drowning in a frozen river. Yet another has a Laguna scout supposedly helping the US Army track Geronimo but actually traveling for his own pleasure through the rugged canyon country. In these and similar tales Silko writes with a proud serenity, as if unwilling to stoop to resentment or rage. This inner freedom, bespeaking the strength of her roots and the life she celebrates, is evident also in the several variants of the adventures, ancient-mythic and modern-realistic, of a character named Kochininako of Yellow Woman, who wanders off from her husband and encounters a mysterious Whirlwind Man. Here and elsewhere, too, Silko shows no interest in antiquarian charm or hokey picturesqueness. Her men and women have a gritty naturalness, an earthy integrity that she renders beautifully in spare, unaccented prose. Now and then, in an apparent effort to convey the formal rhythmic patterns of tribal storytelling, Silko experiments with blank verse--not very successfully. Otherwise, solid, nourishing fare--a modest feast.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1981
Publisher: Seaver Books (333 Central Park West, New York, N.Y. 10025)